It's back to school for students at a half-dozen French schools in London, and at École secondaire Gabriel-Dumont in southeast London, students arrived wearing masks Tuesday morning.

The school is the first public high school in the region to commence in-class studies since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Joined by three feeder elementary schools, spread throughout London, half the students in the French first language public school board, the Conseil Scolaire Viamonde, began school Tuesday.

Students in the regions two biggest boards, Thames Valley and London Catholic district school boards, return to class next week.

Gabriel-Dumont, which has students from Grades 7 to 12, is following a split cohort system, with students split into groups A and B.

Starting next week, high school-aged students will spend one day at school and one day at home, on an alternating schedule. Grade 7 and 8 students will following the same schedule, until the middle of the month, when they’ll begin attending each day.

On Tuesday, students arriving at the school were seen masked and spaced on school buses before exiting to a spaced queue line at the front doors. Once inside, CTV News cameras noted students were sanitizing their hands before proceeding to be placed with their cohort of peers in physically distanced classes.

Some parents chose to drop their children off for the first day of class, to see with their own eyes the safety protocols being utilized.

Tina McAllister has two children at a city French first language elementary school, and a boy entering Grade 7 at Gabriel-Dumont. She believes the Consiel Scolaire Viamonde has done everything possible to make her children safe.

“They’ve worked really hard to put things in place to the best of their knowledge, and it’s a learning process from here on in."

Ahmat Mohammed brought his son, Sair, to his first day of Grade 7. He’s more leary of bringing his son back to class.

“Anytime, if there is something that isn’t good, we are going to pull them off, that is for sure. You never know, we see some places around the world where the coronavirus is increasing."

Sair is nervous about a return to school as well, but not just because of the pandemic.

“It’s a new school too, so there’s going to be a lot of challenges getting used to wearing masks and the securities of staying safe."

Staying safe is a big concern for Abdullah Fliou.

He says it was a painstaking choice to let his son return to school, given personal health concerns.

“To be honest, yes, he has asthma and I do as well. We also have two newborns. If anyone got the virus and then transferred it to home, it’s very serious for us. We have to see how things are going the first week."


Abdullah Fliou, a parent of a Grade 7 student at Gabriel-Dumont French first language school in London, Ont. worries about the return to bricks and mortar education. His son has asthma and he hesitated to send him back to school Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020.. (Sean Irvine / CTV News)

But for many other parents CTV News spoke with, sending children back to school half-time is a positive.

“Kids need socialization. They need to be with each other even if it’s six feet apart or whatever, it’s part of growing up. Going to school is kinda necessary,” stated Jody Truckle.

Kids seem to be taking the change in stride.

Kaelyn Graham says she wore her mask with a friend while playing a physically active video game over the weekend, just to get use to it for school.

“I did just dance with my friend in a mask, and it was really boiling, but that’s OK, because I survived."